Case Study: U.S.Army National Guard

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Case Study: U.S.Army National Guard

Advertising Agencies – National Guard

Case Study 1: The U.S. Army National Guard Recruiting Department

Before Hiring Ethridge

In December of 2005, the U.S. Army National Guard was falling short of its recruiting goals. As The USA Today newspaper covered the problem:

As of the end of February, five months into the October-September recruiting year, the Army Reserve was more than 10% behind its 2005 recruiting target, and the National Guard was 24% behind its target, Pentagon figures show.

Recruiting has been depressed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and by yearlong combat call-ups for part-time Guard members and reservists, who usually drill one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer in peacetime. (Source: USA Today)

Washington, D.C. based full-service advertising agency, the National Guard’s agency for direct mail recruiting marketing, LM&O, and their direct mail subcontracted agency, ClearWord Communications Group, Inc., contacted Ethridge & Associates, L.L.C. to conduct focus groups to do Copy Testing research among the Army National Guard’s recruiting target audience. The purpose of this research was to evaluate seven (7) direct mail recruiting package concepts (comps). The specific objectives of this study were to determine (a) which package was best in terms of generating a positive response, (b) what creative elements made it best, and (c) what, if anything, could be done to enhance the package(s) to maximize effectiveness at motivating prospects to contact a National Guard Recruiter.

After Hiring Ethridge

Ethridge & Associates, L.L.C. conducted focus groups in representative recruiting markets throughout the U.S. and analyzed the focus group responses using our innovative and proprietary Motivational Linguistics Analysis®. As a result, the study:

  • Discovered which direct mail package was best and how to combine elements of various packages to make them better
  • Identified the argument that was needed to persuade people to join the Guard
  • Identified the key emotional benefits (e.g., parental pride; financial security; patriotism) that would motivate a prospective recruit to join
  • Identified the rational benefits for joining (e.g., educational and financial benefits)
  • Identified the exact key words, phrases and visual symbols to use and where those key elements needed to appear on the various pieces in the mail package (i.e., the outside envelope, inside elements, pictures, color, headlines, bullet-points, paragraphs, letters and inserts).

Based on our study, the agencies executed a direct mail recruiting campaign and recommended that the same message elements be used consistently in all recruiting efforts (e.g., on-line, in school presentations, by recruiters). The campaign’s purpose was to motivate prospective recruits to call the recruiter.

As a result, after several months of hammering the key campaign themes that we recommended based on the focus groups, the National Guard “exceeded their recruiting goals for the first time in more than three years.” Today, four years later, as one recruiter put it, “There are more people calling me right now who are searching for jobs” (helped also more recently by the recession).  The Guard’s percent of 2009 recruiting target is above100% for all but nine of the 50 states plus D.C., and averages 114.8% overall. (Source: Adapted from USA Today)

“Steve conducted a series of national focus groups designed to give my client, the advertising agency representing the National Guard recruiting efforts, a better insight into their target audience. Steve organized the groups, wrote the questions based on our needs, recruited participants, picked the most representative sites, personally moderated each session and wrote an extensive analysis of the group findings. This analysis had a profound influence on National Guard direct marketing materials aimed at recruiting young adults across the country. Excellent work across the board”. David Bufkin, Founding Partner, ClearWorld Communications Group, Washington, D.C.

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